Les femmes participent de plus en plus au marché du travail, mais les normes et pratiques qui s'appliquent à la santé au travail ont été élaborées à un moment où les travailleurs étaient surtout des hommes. En 1990, les secteurs d'activité désignés comme étant les plus prioritaires pour l'intervention par la Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec avaient un taux de masculinité qui s'élevait à plus de 85 %. Dans cet article, nous démontrons une certaine exclusion des femmes de la prévention en santé au travail, nous donnons des explications pour cette exclusion et nous proposons des mesures de correction.
Women are increasingly present in the workplace, but occupational health and safety practices and regulations were devised in a period when nearly all workers were male. This article, which is the product of a joint effort between university researchers and the women's committees of the three major Quebec trade union federations, demonstrates that women are relatively absent from prevention activities in occupational health. We suggest explanations for their absence and propose corrective measures.
We first examine legal measures, especially the Quebec Occupational Health and Safety Act. Women face several disadvantages in the application of the law, because they work for smaller companies, more often work part time, have lower salaries and are less often unionized. They are also more often excluded from prevention activities provided by the law. The Quebec Occupational Health and Safety Commission (CSST) has ascribed higher priority for prevention to some industrial sectors. Criteria used to set these priorities have resulted in a near-absence of women from the high-priority groups. In 1990, more than 85% of those in the groups given the highest priority for intervention were men. These groups received 8 times more inspections than groups with lower priority, for example.
We then ask whether the exclusion of women could be justified because women's jobs are relatively safe or because of the limits of the indicators used. We first critique the indicators used, finding that some are inappropriate for women's working conditions or do not properly take women into account. We then consider how safe and healthy women's working conditions are. We find that repetitive work, prolonged standing, schedules incompatible with women's biology and with their usual family responsibilities and sexism are health risks frequently encountered in women's jobs. However, these conditions do not have dramatic effects on health or survival; they are more apt to resuit in chronic suffering. CSST statistics show that men are more apt to have recognized work accidents than women, but women are more likely than men to be compensated for occupational illnesses.
We also note problems in the way data on women's working conditions are analysed, leading to confusion about whether women's sex or their working conditions are responsible for certain illnesses such as sick building syndrome.
We suggest several mechanisms that would make it possible to apply the law more equitably with a more appropriate determination of priorities: Re-examine the ways jobs are classified; use certified sick leave and protective reassignment of pregnant women as indicators of risks in women's jobs; consult working women on the health risks in their jobs.
Las mujeres participan cada vez mas dentro del mercado de trabajo, pero las normas y practicas que se aplican a la salud y la seguridad en el trabajo fueron elaboradas cuando la mayoria de la fuerza laboral estaba constituida por hombres. En 1990, los sectores de actividad designados como prioritarios para la intervenciòn de la Comisiòn de la Salud y la Seguridad en el Trabajo de Québec tenïan un porcentaje de masculinizaciòn de mas del 85 %. En este articulo, demostramos una cierta exclusion de las mujeres de la prevenciòn de la salud en el trabajo, damos explicaciones para esta exclusion y proponemos formas de corregirla.
Download the article in PDF to read it.